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Supply chains continue to struggle to meet demand.
The peak of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed a few months, but the bottlenecks in the supply chain have not yet opened. Many industries face a mismatch in production capacity and demand; Rampant inflation didn’t help either.
As a result, consumers are experiencing shortages of products ranging from paper to medicine — and shortages can have an adverse effect on everyday life.
And while some experts expect the supply chain to reach a more “normal” level next year, others warn against being too optimistic.
5 items are currently in short supply
One of the most basic products is currently in short supply.
As the Covid pandemic hits, life is confined to the home — and online. Demand for paper increased, as did US paper production. According to commentary by ERA Forest Products Research in the Seattle Times, many paper mills have pivoted during the pandemic to produce packaging and cardboard to catch up with the new reliance on online shopping, leading to a near decline 20% of production capacity from 2019, according to commentary by ERA Forest Products Research in the Seattle Times.
But once the lockdown eased, demand for paper products skyrocketed – and factories struggled to return to pre-pandemic production levels. Many mills that have switched to packaging cannot easily return to paper production.
Throwing fuel on the fire is fueling inflation, making paper production more expensive. According to Business Insider, the cost of raw materials to produce paper has skyrocketed, pushing the price of paper up to 60%.
How to deal: If you’re a business owner looking for a specific paper for marketing materials or inventory, ask your local printing company or paper supplier about other options available. If you buy paper from time to time to refill your home printer, you may notice a spike in prices. Consider switching to a cheaper brand, if available. If you’re an online paper buyer, keep in mind that many e-commerce brands use real-time dynamic pricing, which results in constant price swings. Use price tracking apps, like CamelCamelCamel or Shopify, to determine if you’re clicking the buy button during peak prices.
2. Diesel oil
According to CBS News, US diesel and gasoline inventories are currently in short supply. Many factors contribute to supply strains, including the war in Ukraine, refinery shutdowns, natural disasters, and an explosion at a refinery in Philadelphia.
You may have heard that the US has only 25 days left on diesel fuel. But that doesn’t mean the country is about to run out completely; Analysts point out that’s far from the case. This alarming number is only likely to happen if every refinery in the country has to close immediately, which analysts say is unfounded.
How to deal: The best way to manage the current diesel shortage is to combat panic buying; In general, panic buying can deplete a dwindling supply. Shortages may subside once demand cools, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when that might happen.
3. Certain prescription drugs
Drugmakers are having trouble keeping up with demand. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), several commonly used drugs are currently in short supply, causing a lot of stress for patients and healthcare workers:
- Albuterol Sulfate Deadly Solution: Used to treat symptoms of asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory conditions.
- Amoxicillin: This antibiotic is used to treat a variety of bacterial infections, including RSV, a respiratory illness that is on the rise.
- Adderall: The compounds used to make Adderall, a drug used to control ADHD symptoms, are in short supply.
- Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen):His medication is used to treat severe anaphylactic allergic reactions.
How to deal: In some cases, stopping the prescribed medication suddenly can lead to adverse health effects. For example, Adderall is a stimulant – meaning that patients can experience severe withdrawal if they stop eating cold turkey. If a medication you trust is in short supply, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist if there are suitable alternatives available for your prescription.
4. Baby formula
Despite efforts from the federal government, the country continues to grapple with a shortage of baby formula.
The shortage was caused by a temporary shutdown of a key formula factory in Michigan after some contaminated product caused bacterial infections in four infants — two of whom died. The discovery also resulted in the recall of several formulations made at the same factory, which exacerbated an already strained supply.
The Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of formula. Even so, in early November, government officials stated that there was “obviously a problem” with getting baby formula on shelves and that it would take time for shortages to subside.
How to deal: Because every baby’s needs are different and every family has different resources, there’s no universal answer for how parents can deal with formula shortages. The Department of Health and Human Services says that most babies “will do just fine” with different brands of formula, as long as they are made from the same milk.
Forbes Health has an in-depth guide on how to safely correct infant formula shortages, as well as a guide to changing infant formula.
We’re not short of official butter — yet. But experts warn that avocado supplies are dwindling ahead of the busy baking and cooking festival season.
The biggest culprit threatening the butter supply is the production of milk, the main ingredient in butter. The number of dairy cows is decreasing as it becomes more expensive to raise and keep them.
As a result, US avocado production has been on a downward trend this year, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Less supply and continued consumer demand have sent avocado prices soaring by nearly 27% year-on-year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent Consumer Price Index report. The average price for a pound of avocado was $3.14 for the week ending October 29; at the same time last year, it was under $2.
How to deal: The worst move a consumer can make is to start buying avocados. Since the supply is scarce – but not an official shortage – collective trading can lead to real shortages. If you feel like you don’t have the butter to bake, there are substitutes that can work in some recipes, including pumpkin puree and apple sauce.
For other uses, there are vegan butter alternatives such as Earth Balance and Miyoko, which taste similar to real butter and unlike the gummy margarine alternatives of years past. Most stores also carry imported brands of avocados such as Kerrygold, although they usually have a higher price tag.
Is shortage the new normal?
Persistent shortages may leave consumers wondering if these supply disruptions are the new normal. But experts see light at the end of the supply chain tunnel.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe turmoil in the supply chain as lockdown measures have restricted production. Global supply chains are so closely interconnected that those bottlenecks are still taking time to resolve.
As lockdowns ease, demand for many products grows exponentially, but supply still struggles to keep up. The war in Ukraine is exacerbating these problems by shrinking many items used in the production process, including oil.
This storm of perfect misfortune is causing the supply chain to recover at breakneck speed – but it is recovering. Data from the New York Fed’s Global Supply Chain Pressures Index shows that those pressures are starting to return to pre-Covid levels.
Supply chain disruptions are expected to return to “normal” by 2023, according to a Bloomberg report, though that recovery will vary by industry and region.
For now, consumers should expect shortages to remain a part of daily life for the foreseeable future.